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March 12, 2020

Neurodiversity in the Workplace: What does your company have in place?

by Caragh Medlicott posted in Neurodiversity.

Ayoa | Neurodiversity in the Workplace: What does your company have in place?
Did you know that the average person spends about a third of their life at work? In totality, that looks something like 90,000 hours. Needless to say, that’s a huge amount of time. While most of our working days fly by in unremarkable fashion, ultimately, the quality of our work life impacts our quality of life overall.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that human resource departments play such an integral part in the running of businesses the world over. HR teams are tasked with the recruitment of talent and the monitoring of company culture, but they also have a duty of care to the existing employees within their organization.

In our modern times, the importance (and rewards) of a diverse office have become increasingly paramount. We know that businesses operate at their best when they reflect the wealth of experiences, identities and backgrounds that exist in the real world. Yet, even in our contemporary climate, the importance of neurodiversity within the workplace is only just beginning to take the spotlight.

Neurodiversity affects the brains processing

What is neurodiversity, and how is it changing the workplace?

Neurodiversity refers to neurological differences, some of which can impact the cognitive processing of individuals in a variety of ways. Examples of differences that fall under the neurodivergent umbrella include dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. Considering how common these differences are, it’s easy to see why more and more companies are looking to create (and scale!) plans which offer support in their office for neurodivergent employees.

At the start of 2020, Universal Music became one of the first public movers and shakers with the launch of their ‘Creative Differences’ handbook. As music industry leaders, Universal count a particularly high number of creatives amongst their employees. Considering the relationship between neurodiversity and creativity, it is unsurprising that they also have an especially high number of prominent neurodivergent employees.

The Universal handbook covers everything from misconceptions and stereotypes to guidelines for creating a fairer and more inclusive work environment. The handbook also emphasises that this is important not just because of a duty to employees, but so that businesses can benefit from the many individual talents that neurodivergent employees often embody.

Research from Universal indicates that 96% of employers in creative industries believe their workplace would benefit from being neurodivergent, yet only 17% of people know how many neurodivergent employees are already within their company.

Neurodiversity impacts employees and employers

What does your business have in place?

Though neurodiversity has become something of a buzzword in recent months, many people – employers included – are unsure of what steps actually need to be taken in order to support neurodivergent individuals. While there is no cookie-cutter plan which can be implemented to universally improve work processes for neurodivergent individuals, there are many general guidelines for best practice.

Before taking action, it’s important to take stock. There may be many simple measures that can be adjusted or changed which you are not even aware of. That’s why the best starting point for progressive businesses is understanding what is currently in place and then identifying any gaps.

Neurological differences can present themselves in many ways. Of course, many of us believe we know of the common issues associated with well-known learning differences such as dyslexia, but even so, it is important that you never assume you have the full picture. For example, you may know that dyslexia impacts spelling, but did you further know that it can also affect memory, organization and coordination?

When reviewing your workplace’s neuro-inclusivity, you should consider all the elements of employees’ work environments and processes. What do your offices sound, smell and look like? How do teams and individuals communicate? How is information presented? Do you give employees options and alternatives to text when sharing information? What tools are at your employees’ disposal? Do you actively talk about neurodiversity in a healthy, positive light? How do you onboard employees and do you offer customizable options in the process?

These may seem like broad questions, but by even considering them you are likely to see areas where you could be doing things better. With many employers not fully aware of the number of neurodivergent people in their organization, exploring these questions will also help you to identify those within your company who may be affected, so you can establish the most effective solutions. Discussing neurodiversity and educating staff on this subject area is the best way to lay a foundation for a good, forward-thinking environment.

Here at Ayoa, we’re on a mission to help workplaces become more neuro-inclusive. To find out more, visit ayoa.com/neurodiversity

Caragh Medlicott

Caragh Medlicott is a freelance writer and interim Editor of Wales Arts Review. After graduating with a First-Class Honours degree in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University she began a full-time writing career in Wales. She is the author of several published short stories and was shortlisted for the Lunate 500 award in December 2020, and a finalist in Narrative’s 30 Below competition in 2021. She is a regular contributor to BBC Wales' The Review Show.

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